The latest buzzword in the realm of education, STEM is a trend that shows little signs of slowing down. We see STEM toys making their way into stores, STEM academies popping up across town, and this exploration-based acronym painting headlines in news stores from time to time.

But what exactly is STEM? Is this a necessary push in education, and is it one that’s best for all children? And how does this fit with the Reggio Emilia approach for daycare and preschool?

Child Time Inc. has several locations for daycare and preschool in the Salt Lake City area, and we are proud and honored to serve families, as we have been doing since 1988. For an incredible choice in preschool and daycare where your child’s development is the center, contact us today! With The Avenues Preschool, The Second Avenues Preschool, The Eastside Preschool, and The Cottonwood Preschool, there is sure to be a location that’s convenient for your family, with exceptional quality and care for your child. In the meantime, get some of your questions about STEM answered—and stay tuned for an upcoming blog post with STEM ideas and crafts!

What is STEM?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and became a nationwide push to implement more of these educational aspects into schools and curriculum. Unsurprisingly, the concept is much more than the acronym it represents. As former president Barack Obama said, “[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…” During his presidency, Obama pushed significantly for the implementation of STEM.

Why did STEM come about?

The reasons for STEM are twofold. First, there is a growing need for jobs in the worlds of science and technology. Society and culture look drastically different compared to even two decades ago; with technology taking up so much of our day-to-day lives, we need a talented job pool to both fill up and create these positions. Many of the older school methods of education, such as reading from a textbook or memorizing facts, do not match or encourage the necessary critical thinking skills and creativity needed to succeed in these industries.

Secondly, there is a disparity in who fills science and math positions, one which can be described as inequitable at best and horrific at worst. The National Girls Collaborative Project provides some shocking statistics:

  • While women comprise half the total US college-educated workforce, they make up only 29 percent of the science industry.
  • In various realms of engineering, women comprise an average of 18.2 percent of the workforce.

    • This can be as low as 7.9 percent, such as with the realm of mechanical engineers.
  • People of color are especially underrepresented, and women of color make up less than 10 percent of scientists as a whole.

For so much of human history, anyone who was not a white male has been discouraged—if not forbidden—to study science, technology, and mathematics. Even when laws were changed, the discouragement, discrimination, and harassment faced by women (particularly women of color) and people of color as a whole were more than enough to expand and further these disparities.

STEM works to correct this problem. By bringing STEM into more classrooms and exposing children of all backgrounds to the higher level thinking associated with STEM, it works to create more equitable opportunities (and get kids excited about science and math!)

How does STEM work?

This is perhaps one of the most important components of understanding STEM. Many assume STEM is only for people who are “naturally inclined” or motivated by science, or believe that STEM is solely comprised of science experiments and lab work. While these perceptions are understandable, both are myths.

For starters, STEM is about inspiring problem solving skills, critical thinking, imagination, and creativity. STEM also drives so much of its methodology from constructivism—an approach where students construct their own knowledge and understandings, versus being told and lectured. These are components that are relatable with every child, as they acknowledge individual talents, curiosities, and capabilities in figuring out a solution.

STEM activities can vary, but more than anything work to foster the aforementioned skills. One example of a STEM event could include providing limited materials, such as paper, scissors, and glue, and telling students to create a paper airplane or car. This has very little to do with a lab setting, but encourages the very talents that are sought after from a variety of workforces.

How does STEM connect with the Reggio Emilia approach?

The Reggio Emilia approach values a child as strong, capable, and resilient, and looks to encourage curiosity and interests. With STEM, part of problem solving is to teach this same resilience and capabilities. It’s not easy to communicate and sometimes work collaboratively towards coming up with a solution, but STEM and Reggio Emilia both teach this skill, and see it as invaluable.

Ultimately, STEM and the Reggio Emilia approach go hand in hand. While the names differ, the focuses on constructing one’s own knowledge, exploration, and collaboration are the components which bring the two schools of thought together. In a future blog, we’ll dive into some incredible STEM activities that you can try with your toddler or preschooler. For even more information about the Reggio Emilia approach and how this preschool and daycare option could benefit your young one, contact one of our many Child Time Inc. schools to get started!